In this post, we’ll help beginners learn how to play the keyboard like a pro.
There was once a time when I dreamed of becoming a piano player like Elton John or Billy Joel, but ultimately, I learned to play the guitar instead. Growing up, I was a huge Elton John fan. I even pretended to play along to his records on a fake keyboard I drew on a piece of paper. I don’t know how long that phase lasted, but it was long enough that I still remember. Perhaps that story should be buried, but I digress.
My dream of playing the piano never came to fruition as we didn’t have a piano at home, which made it impossible for me to take lessons. The guitar was much less expensive, and even then, I waited until college to start learning.
Back to the piano! I can play basic chords and some simple 80’s synth-pop melodies, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m not a trained player, but I love the sound of a grand piano or the charm of an old electric keyboard. That said, I realized along the way that I needed to include keyboards in my productions, and I wasn’t skilled enough in my playing.
Like me, are you also a musician playing guitar, drums, or other instruments besides keyboards? Do you want to incorporate keyboard parts into your productions but need more skills or time to play them yourself? Look no further than EZkeys 2 (from here on out, just EZkeys) – an ideal solution for adding keyboard parts to your music.
I have been utilizing EZkeys v1 for a considerable amount of time now. As discussed in my previous post about virtual drummer plugins, I am a HUGE fan of EZDrummer. Therefore, it was only natural for me to test out EZkeys at some point.
EZkeys is a software instrument that lets you create realistic and expressive keyboard tracks in minutes. You can choose from various piano and keyboard sounds and use the built-in songwriting tools to arrange and edit your parts. EZkeys can also trigger other synths and keys from different manufacturers, giving you even more sonic possibilities.
In this blog post, I will discuss how you can use EZkeys on your productions and the MIDI from EZkeys to play other instruments. Assuming that you take my advice and purchase EZkeys, I’ll guide you through the steps to get up-and-running. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Install and authorize EZkeys
The first thing you need to do is to install and authorize EZkeys on your computer. You can download the installer from the Toontrack website and follow the instructions to install it. You must also register and authorize your product using the Toontrack Product Manager. You can find more details on how to do this in the user manual.
Step 2: Choose a sound and a MIDI groove
Once you have installed and authorized EZkeys, you can launch it as a standalone application or a plugin in your DAW. You will see a simple interface with a keyboard, a sound browser, and a song track. EZkeys 2 includes a newly sampled Fazioli Grand Piano. If that isn’t enough, Toontrack offers expansion packs that bring mellotron, clavinet, electric keyboards, and more to your productions. You can also tweak the sound using the controls below the keyboard, such as volume, reverb, tone, dynamics, etc.
On the interface’s right side, a browser allows you to add MIDI grooves to your song track. You can choose from various genres and styles of MIDI files, including pop/rock, country, jazz, blues, R&B, and more. The categories are sorted by the intro, verse, chorus, bridge, and other sections. To preview a MIDI file, click on it and then drag and drop it onto your song track. You can also use the search function to find specific MIDI files using keywords.
There is also a bandmate feature that suggests chords and grooves based on your input, a tap2find feature that lets you find matching grooves by tapping or playing notes, and an extensive MIDI library with different styles and genres.
Step 3: Arrange and edit your MIDI parts
Once you have added MIDI grooves to your song track, you can use the tools at the bottom of the interface to arrange and edit them. The timeline allows you to move, copy, paste, delete, or split your MIDI parts. You can change the chords of your MIDI parts using the chord wheel by dragging and dropping a chord from the wheel to a MIDI part on the song track. Additionally, you can use the transpose function to change the key of your MIDI parts. The chord wheel also shows which chords complement the key of your song.
You can utilize the edit mode to modify your MIDI parts in greater detail. You can enter this mode by double-clicking on a MIDI part on the song track. Once in edit mode, you will be presented with a piano roll editor that allows you to modify each note individually. You can adjust various aspects of each note, such as pitch, velocity, length, and position, or delete notes using mouse or keyboard shortcuts. Additionally, you can use the quantize function to align your notes to a grid.
Step 4: Export your MIDI parts
When you are happy with your MIDI parts, you can export them as standard MIDI files that you can use in any DAW or software instrument. To do this, you can simply drag and drop your MIDI parts from EZkeys to your desktop or any folder on your computer. You can also use the export function in the file menu to export your entire song track or selected parts as a single MIDI file.
Step 5: Use your MIDI parts to trigger other synths and keys
One of the great features of EZkeys is that you can use its MIDI output to trigger other synths and keys from other manufacturers. You can expand your sonic palette and create more diverse keyboard tracks. You need to set up a MIDI routing in your DAW or standalone application to do this.
For example, if you use EZkeys as a plugin in Ableton Live, you can create a new MIDI track and load another synth, keyboard, or piano plugin. Then you need to set the input of this track to receive MIDI from EZkeys. You also need to select the monitor mode of this track to “In” or “Auto.” This way, when you play or record EZkeys on another track, it will send its MIDI output to this track and trigger the other plugin.
You can repeat this process for as many plugins as you want. You can also mix and match different sounds from different plugins using other MIDI parts from EZkeys. For example, you can use a piano sound from EZkeys for the verse and a synth sound from another plugin for the chorus. You can also layer different sounds from different plugins using the same MIDI part from EZkeys. For example, you can use a piano sound from EZkeys and an organ sound from another plugin for the bridge.
Ezkeys is one of many options for offering a solution to trigger your virtual keyboards. Here are a few other solutions for you to consider.
Scaler 2: This plugin helps you find chords and scales that fit your music and suggests chord progressions, melodies, and basslines. You can also use it to control other instruments and plugins and explore different genres and moods with its presets and songs. Scaler 2 is compatible with Windows and Mac, costing $59.
Captain Chords: This plugin is part of the Captain Plugins suite, including plugins for melodies, basslines, beats, and hooks. Captain Chords lets you write chord progressions in any key and scale and choose from hundreds of rhythms, sounds, and patterns. You can also generate custom chords, edit MIDI in your DAW, and sync with other Captain Plugins. Captain Chords works with Windows and Mac and costs $99 for the whole suite.
Unison MIDI Chord Pack: This collection of over 1200 MIDI files covers 12 major and minor keys and 107 chord progressions. You can use them to create your songs or learn from the examples of popular songs that use them. You can also drag and drop them into any DAW or plugin and customize them to your liking. Unison MIDI Chord Pack works with any platform that supports MIDI files and costs $67.
Tools in your DAW (digital audio workstation): Several DAWs offer features for triggering keyboards. Some examples are Reason’s Player Devices and Cubase’s Scales and Chords Mode. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol also provides Chord and Scale assistants.
EZkeys is a powerful, easy-to-use software instrument to help you create realistic and expressive keyboard tracks in minutes. You can choose from various piano and keyboard sounds and use the built-in songwriting tools to arrange and edit your parts. You can also use the MIDI from EZkeys to trigger other synths and keys from different manufacturers, giving you even more sonic possibilities.
If you are a musician who wants to add some keyboard parts to your productions, but you need more skills or the time to play them yourself, EZkeys might be the perfect solution for you. You can download a free trial version of EZkeys from the Toontrack website and try it out for yourself.
At $179 ($99 for an upgrade), I’m confident you will like the ease of use and added versatility of using other virtual instruments you may already own. I mean, if you already own several Rhodes or Wurlitzer keyboards or something like Arturia’s V-Collection, there’s no need to spend extra money. You can just use EZkeys to trigger those instruments!
I hope you found this blog post helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Thank you for reading!